Northern Irish health minister hints gay blood ban could be dropped
The Northern Irish Health Minister has signalled the DUP might allow the lifetime ban on men who have sex with men donating blood to be lifted.
Simon Hamilton, Northern Ireland’s Health Minister has requested an assessment of the latest risk levels.
He requested the risk assessment from the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissue and Organs, and said if evidence showed that the risk had dropped, that the lifetime ban in Northern Ireland should be removed.
During the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s the ban was put in place, but in England, Scotland and Wales, it was partially lifted in 2011.
In its place is now a 12-month deferral period meaning men who have sex with men must abstain from sex for a year before they can donate blood.
Despite this, former Health Minister Edwin Poots maintained the full, lifetime ban in Northern Ireland, citing public safety.
A gay man brought a legal case against Poots, and findings were made against him in a judicial review.
The High Court has also ruled that the Democratic Unionist MLA has no power to keep the ban.
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However challenges have continued to be brought by Poots’ successors.
Mr Hamilton said: “I have recently written to the Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt MP suggesting that he and I request that SaBTO provide us with the current state of evidence regarding the risks for recipients of blood and to give us their assessment of the levels of risk associated with permanent deferral of MSM, a five-year deferral and a one-year deferral in Northern Ireland.
“I have suggested that this piece of work be done because some time has elapsed since SaBTO considered the report to the Working Group in 2011 and because this work would permit consideration of up to date expert advice as soon as the court reaches its judgement.
“If such a piece of work affirms emerging evidence that blood safety has been increased in Great Britain, it would be my view that such evidence should be followed and that Northern Ireland should adopt the same policy on blood donations from MSM as the rest of the United Kingdom.”